I was going through my computer files and found a letter I wrote to Bryan that wasn't hand-written, but saved in a document. It was the letter I sent right after our very first visit in September 2010, reflecting on my favorite parts of our first in-person conversation. This is a fun look down memory lane and evidence of the power of a visit in experiencing the humanity of a prisoner in the Pelican Bay SHU.
Dear Bryan, 10-10-10
OMG..... a coffee crisis???? Hopefully by the time you get this you will be enjoying a mug. Yes, I was exhausted by the whirlwind trip, but was all worth it. I always plan recovery time into my schedule just after a major road trip.
Bryan, I had an absolute blast hanging out with you for the weekend. You are really fun and as you have learned, I like to reach out into unconventional places and find treasures where others might not choose to look. And you, Bryan, are a real treasure !!
One of the best things about meeting face to face is that I can now write to you in a more relaxed style. We spoke about letters being hard to communicate in because things can be misinterpreted. I have heard that up to 70 % of communication is non-verbal, meaning inflection, facial expression, even what people wear can tell you something about what they are trying to “say”. In just one meeting, so many unknowns have been answered and a foundation of trust established for our future friendship. Little things, like what you look like and how I sound and big things, like our senses of humor, our fears and hopes. So..... you have to put the smiley faces back into your letters. I miss them terribly. Please bring them back as you will. I love all the emoticons you shared with me... I’m not cool, I didn’t know about most of them.
Back to our visit.... some of my favorite moments:
What you said that made me laugh the hardest: When you told me about how you take your Sunday breakfast menu items, mix them all up with peaches and mayonnaise and spread them onto your bread into a “breakfast sandwich”. Ughhh... you are such a “guy”. LOL
What I remember saying that made you laugh the hardest: When I was asking you about the kind of things the men in your pod might ask you about our visit, you said things like “how was your visit”, “have a good time?”, etc. I shared with you about a visit involving bacon cheeseburgers that resulted in a friend asking if it would be ok to smell that yummy bacon-scented breath. I remember that had you laughing so hard you pulled the phone away from your mouth out of consideration of my hearing.
The thing you said that gave me the most to think about on my drive home:
“You are the first woman other than my mom and sister that I have seen in a long, long time.” At first this seemed very straight forward, but then I pondered that it only was said at the end of day two. As I thought about that I realized that on day one I had to get my XL white t-shirt and gray sweats to wear as a back up because I had worn blue jeans. So basically, I was wearing my pajamas, and pretty drab ones at that. Interestingly, on day one it was easy to just focus on getting to know each other, I was a visual blank slate, or at least as “blank” as a woman like me can get! LOL Then on day two, you noticed my attire almost right away. Probably not fair of me to wear pink, my best color!
Bryan, it is ok to enjoy the “girliness” of me. When I was a Red Cross volunteer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, wounded soldiers just days off the battlefield would hold my hand and just look at me. One told me that he loved to smell me, that when he smelled my perfume, he knew he was home and safe. Sometime the feminine should just be enjoyed for what it is and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything untoward or overly sexual to comment about the female qualities that I bring into your world. I kind of expect that when I interact with men in prison or the military and I assume the most benign intentions until a person proves something else. So if you have any questions, just ask. But, you may get a totally nonsensical, overly detailed answer, like when I told you how foils are used to dye hair. :-) Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
Nice things I can say about the CDC Staff:
The visiting room staff was friendly and professional, and tried to make the screening process easy, even if I had to run out to my car three times the first day - all my own fault, of course.
(1) I had to go get more clothes to replace my jeans, then (2) I had to return the jeans to the car and (3) I had to go back to look up your CDC number when I filled out my form because I didn’t have it memorized.
A nice thing you told me about CDC staff: was that on day two when we were in booth 7, that the staff apologized to you about taking so long to get you out, saying that they were understaffed and doing the best they could. As they walked by with inmates going to booths down the line I could tell they were doing their best.
Worst thing about the trip: That Damn Fog Horn!!!!! Every 10 seconds, all night long !!!!
The thing I wished I had explained more about when we were together:
I wish I could have explained further about why I looked into your eyes and said,” Promise me trouble won’t follow me home”. We kind of skirted around that issue and by the time I felt I could talk about it, it was the end of day two and there really didn’t seem to be time or a need to explore that further. But I want to explain a bit more because from my perspective, it feels like the only unresolved conversation from our visit. Plus we can get to know each other better. Please assume the best of me as I try to get out my thought process down here.... in hind-site, it is pretty funny what I was thinking and what the facts turned out to be....
Remember, I had done some research about Pelican Bay, watched some videos on YouTube and chatted on prisontalk.com with people about gangs, the hole, etc. I kind of thought that maybe you were this AB kingpin who could snap your fingers and reign terror down upon me and the motley crew that I know from the facility I visit -- who are a mish-mash of psychotics, SOs, debriefers and other “special” prisoners. - I am friends with their mothers and sisters. I understand that the sensors at your facility will be looking at everything we write or say for hidden codes and I should be careful about what I share. But my thinking was that I should be careful about what I shared with you, that you might learn something that compelled you to followup on my innocent ramblings.
I can just feel you and your Gang Investigations censors all cringing at this point... relax... this was a misconception on my part.
Of course, Bryan, I learned so much more about you, the hole, gangs, debriefing and your Pelican Bay world during the visit and understand that you were worried that your Gang Investigations might call back to WA state and cause me trouble. Don’t worry about the CDC calling WA DOC, there’s no trouble to find. And of course my misconceptions about fearing you are now resolved :-D
And here’s a final thought:
Thank you for telling me about the SHU and how and why people are there. I now understand that the purpose is to get you to debrief...and here are my thoughts on that:
I have no opinion about what you should do about all that Bryan, I am your friend and support you because you are Bryan. That holds true whether you never leave Pelican Bay because you have nothing of value to say or choose not to say what you might know or if you just refuse to talk about anything in protest of the system of indefinite SHU. But I will also support you if you choose to debrief....because if you could figure out a way out of there you could take me to lunch eventually....but that’s just selfish of me, isn’t it? LOL ;-)
Til next time,
0 :-) I like the “angel”